Mobile-First Redefined for 2014

Maynard Webb (Yahoo Board Chairman and author of Rebooting Work) spoke in a recent interview with Bloomberg West about focusing on mobile in 2014 and mentioned Mobile-First in a new (to me) context: because mobile is now the dominant platform it should be considered first for development. My definition of Mobile-First was as a design paradigm for prioritizing content and identifying top functionality as a stair step in the responsive web design process. If it’s not important on a mobile phone screen, how important is it at tablet or laptop screen size? Mr. Webb’s definition essentially says: get the mobile experience right first because it’s now your primary target.

If you follow recent holiday shopping and sales numbers you’d have to agree that the time to target mobile platforms first is here. For all of the reasons that Mobile-First was great as a design process it will continue to be the place to start. However, mobile should now be the first target of design because it’s the primary platform of your target audience.

This may seem like semantics, since you still will go on to design for all screen sizes large and small, however, ask yourself this question: “if you only had resources to design for one screen-size experience would you roll out a website designed for mobile or one designed for a full-screen/PC?”. Many companies today take the opposite approach to Mobile-First design by default, hoping their existing/large screen design will be OK for mobile users until the next redesign. Would you be better served, if you’re in a position of clean-slate or redesign, to deploy once you have achieved a design optimized for mobile or lose opportunity by waiting until you create enough content to fill all possible screen-size experiences?

Maybe the non-mobile client is the new less optimized experience in 2014.